TURNING UP THE HEAT!  Reinforcing OLMSTEAD as Law (originally posted mid-November)

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice revisited Georgia’s response to the Olmstead ruling.  The Supreme Court decided in 1999 to reject Georgia’s attempt to appeal an earlier law which stated  that people should be permitted to live in the least restrictive setting possible unless they chose otherwise.  Georgia had hoped it could continue to retain people for long periods in state hospitals.  This way, the state would not have to use its resources to develop effective service systems out in communities that would prevent need for long-term institutionalization.

Like many other states  Georgia has been very slow in developing the system to reduce long-term inpatient care.  So the Justice Department has turned its attention back to Georgia.  As you will read in the following excerpt from an article posted by National Public Radio, North Carolina and other states have required federal attention related to breeches in the civil rights of consumers.  It will be good for us to learn from how our neighbors implement new requirements by the Justice Department.    Here are its new requirements:     1.)  Ending all admissions of people with developmental disabilities to the state hospitals by July 2011.   2.) Moving people with developmental disabilities out of hospitals to community settings by July 2015.   3.)  Establishing community services, including supported housing, for about 9,000 people with mental illness.  4.) Creating community support teams and crisis intervention teams to help people with developmental disabilities and mental illness avoid hospitalization.

Excerpt below.  To read full article, go to www.npr.org  

Enforcing A Previous Ruling                                                          NPR in Washington.                                                                                  The Justice Department action demonstrates broader enforcement of the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead decision from 1999. In the case, which originated in Georgia, the court ruled that unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Lewis Bossing, a senior staff attorney at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization for people with mental illness, said the “ground-breaking” settlement in Georgia capped a flurry of federal legal activity in disability cases during the past 18 months.

Indeed, Justice has filed briefs and joined Olmstead-related lawsuits in several states, including New York, North Carolina, Arkansas, California and Illinois. Over the past year and a half, Department of Justice attorneys:   1.) Filed a brief in support of North Carolina litigation seeking to keep two individuals with developmental disabilities in community settings. A proposed cutoff of funds jeopardized the housing for the two. Perez said in an April statement about the case, “We will not allow people with disabilities to be a casualty of the difficult economy.”   2.)  Filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit in New York, seeking supported housing units for thousands of residents of “adult homes.”   3.) Filed briefs in existing lawsuits in Florida, Illinois and New Jersey against what the agency called “unnecessary institutionalization” of people with disabilities.

“We will continue to aggressively enforce the law, and we hope other states will follow Georgia’s example,” Perez said.

Bossing said the Justice Department, by spelling out an array of community services required to meet Olmstead criteria, “will make it more likely that states will change the way they do business with people with disabilities.”


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